Letters to the Editor

How do we make our cities more liveable for our people?

The Philippine Star

The Global Liveability Index by The Economist Intelligence Unit rates the world’s cities’ liveability based on stability, climate and environment, and availability and quality of healthcare services, education, and infrastructure.

Further, it observed that several cities in the top tier of the index, such as those in Australia and Canada, have relatively low population density, which “can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.”

According to the World Bank Group’s Philippines Urbanization Review in 2017, the country’s urban population will increase by approximately 20 million over the next 20 years. It further estimates that 102 million Filipinos will live in the cities by the year 2050. This means, almost the whole Filipino population at present will be crowding our already overcrowded cities about 30 years from now. This also means greater challenge for the government in terms of improving the quality of life of citizens.

I believe that the challenge is not only decongesting our urban centers but also ensuring that these areas remain healthy, liveable, resilient, and sustainable for our people.

I remember, when I was a child, I would run around our family compound in idyllic Malabon. In the lush green scenery of our open space, I would chase butterflies and dragonflies and climb mango trees. At night, as I gazed up on the beautiful clear night skies, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut because I wanted to reach the stars that shone so brightly.

Fast forward to today, our compound is still filled with trees and plants of various kinds, but the city has changed a lot. I could no longer see the dragonflies at day and the fireflies at night. The neighboring cities have changed a lot, as well. The horrendous traffic on the road has become the “normal scenario” in almost the whole of Metro Manila. High-rise buildings, new malls and commercial spaces have mushroomed in almost every remaining vacant space in the metro.

When we need respite from the pressures of work and personal challenges, we still need to go out of town to see the relaxing green of nature or smell fresh air. When we need to cool down and relax for an hour or two after a hard day’s work, we would have to brave the congested roads and it would only add up to our anxieties. 

Would it not be nice to have a La Mesa Ecopark or a Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife in every city where families and communities can not only relax but also interact? Would it not be good to have bike lanes and walkways that would not only improve connectivity and accessibility, but also encourage healthier and eco-friendly forms of transportation? Would it not be healthier for all of us if we have patches of green instead of more buildings in every corner of Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country?

It is on this note that I congratulate and commend the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and express my full support for its program to create public open spaces in the country’s 145 cities.

I am glad that amidst the massive infrastructure program under the “Build, Build, Build,” we are also giving equal importance to making our cities liveable through “Green, Green, Green.” 

This is also crucial in our advocacy to make our cities climate-adaptive and disaster-resilient because trees sequester carbon and open spaces are safe refuge during disasters, especially earthquakes.

I also wish to commend the local government units (LGUs) who heeded the call and submitted project proposals to the DBM. I hope that this is only the beginning of a stronger partnership between the national government and LGUs in making our cities progressive yet eco-friendly. Let us all make every town in our country equitable, sustainable, resilient and inclusive.

(Message at the launch of DBM’s “Green, Green, Green” Program, Oct. 1, 2018, National Museum of Natural History) - Sen. Loren legarda

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